PASADENA, Calif., May 27 (UPI) — NASA says its Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is providing new information about climate change on Mars and the planet’s sub-surface geology.
Space agency officials said the spacecraft’s Shallow Radar, or SHARAD, instrument has allowed scientists to reconstruct the formation of a large chasm and a series of spiral troughs on the northern ice cap of Mars.
“SHARAD is giving us a beautifully detailed view of ice deposits, whether at the poles or buried in midlatitudes, as they changed on Mars over the last few million years,” said Rich Zurek, the orbiter project scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
NASA said analyzing radar data on a computer allows scientists to “peel back” the layers of ice like an onion to reveal how the ice cap evolved over time.
“One of the most distinctive features of the northern ice cap is Chasma Boreale, a canyon about as long as Earth’s Grand Canyon, but deeper and wider,” NASA said. “Some scientists believe Chasma Boreale was created when volcanic heat melted the bottom of the ice sheet and triggered a catastrophic flood. Others suggest strong polar winds carved the canyon out of a dome of ice.”
The new data from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter suggest both the canyon and spiral troughs were created and shaped primarily by wind.
The research is reported in two papers appearing in the journal Nature.
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